• Louise Callear

Controlled crying-is this really the most effective way to sleep training?

Updated: May 12

Why is there such controversy around controlled crying? Is there any other way to get my child to sleep through the night??

The answer is yes there are other gentler methods to enable your child to sleep for longer periods particularly at night time. So as a parent myself, why is it that when you mention "sleep training" or "controlled crying" does it send shivers down your spine and send some parents into a panic. Just the thought of it, sends some mother's into a hysterics, but why? What do we actually know about each method? Do we know enough to make such an informed judgment? Lets chat some more....

Lets delve a little deeper and talk about the different methods surrounding your babies sleep. I will explain from my experience just what I believe to be effective, why I choose not to utter the words "Sleep Training" and just what all the fuss is about controlled crying.

I am a qualified Maternity Practitioner and night nanny with almost 20 years experience is this field. I have been a nanny before that and a Nursery Practitioner before that, all whilst working with babies, as this was my preferred age! So I have helped lots of parents along the way, particularly whilst working as a Maternity Practitioner and night nanny as the majority of parents are desperate for routine and more sleep!

So what is controlled crying? Does it work?

Controlled crying is actually a method used to encourage your child to sleep. It is a technique which requires you to control the amount of time you leave your child to cry, for instance, if you put your child down to sleep for their nap or at night time, you place your child down sleepy but awake and then leave the room. You can then choose the amount of time you leave your child to settle themselves. If you feel comfortable with 10 minutes, then you leave your child for 10 minutes and then normally, after that time, you go in and comfort your child, calm them down and then leave again. If you choose to increase the time after that, then you repeat the method. Is it effective? It can be yes. If I am honest, any method that you choose to use, if consistent, will eventually work. But the key is to stick with it.

Any sleep support method is a personal choice. Controlled crying strikes parents as a pretty firm method and this technique gets a lot of negative press. This whole method is honestly not as bad as it sounds, you choose a time which you ultimately feel comfortable with, which could in fact be 5 minutes. You are still controlling the amount of time you leave your child, so essentially it is still classed as controlled crying.

Firstly, I would never suggest leaving young babies to cry, a grumble and groan is very different to a screaming child. Also babies under one year of age, I would suggest a gentler method to encourage longer sleep, short grumbles and moans are fine, but they need your reassurance and comfort whilst you teach them to settle themselves and ensuring they are well fed and comfortable is key, particularly during the first 6 months.

What other methods are there? If I cant listen to any crying at all, how will my baby sleep?

There are gentle methods to encourage your baby to sleep better and for longer periods. These particular methods will inevitably take a little longer but they are as effective as any other method. All sleep support methods take time, consistency and teamwork, ensuring both you and your partner, family member or nanny even, knows what you are doing and you can all be on the same page in terms of outcome and what you are aiming to achieve.

There is a shush and pat method, which offers your child lots of reassurance. Basically you respond if your child cries, you sssshhh and you pat them and settle them back off to sleep with contact or until they are calm and in a sleepy state. You repeat this method each time and until they eventually settle. Now, dependent on the age of your child, this method can work and it could possibly take an hour to fully get your child to settle so it does take a little determination and some coffee on hand!

Another method is the pick up and put down method which is exactly what it sounds like it is. When your child becomes upset, you respond by picking them up, soothing them until you are calm and their breathing returns to normal if they became very upset. Once they are calm, place them back into bed all whilst speaking quietly and calmly, telling them "its time to sleep now, sssshhhh" and then leave the room.

Depending on how you comfortable you feel, you can then leave the room and set your timer to 10 mins and repeat the process when you feel your child needs your reassurance to calm down.

With any method, you need to pick which you feel comfortable with, you also need support as it can be quite testing, particularly at night time. So ensure you can stick with it, because if do it for a few days and then revert back to old methods, it will confuse your child and you will be back at the start with little progress made. It is key, in order for it to become your new normal and for your child to get used to your change in method and fully adjust.

How do I approach families and help with their sleep journey?

When I go into a families home, I will take into consideration, individual needs, individual situation, sleep environment, gathering all relevant information about baby and your current routine in place at that time.

Any sleep method that I suggest, would be only when I have spoken to the parents because in order to improve any sleep situation, I would need to know everything regarding your baby or your child. It most definitely is not a "one method fits all" approach.

There are many factors, including daytime sleeps, awake windows, play, feeds, meals and where your child sleeps if they are having naps during the day. It is also about the attitude of the parents, what they feel comfortable with and general opinions or preferences when it comes to making that positive change in order to get some much needed sleep!

So, my first blog is done, Eeeeeeek! Please let me know what you think as it is so daunting to put yourself out there! My aim is to provide advice, from my own experience and knowledge. I am not saying that it is the only way as there are many ways to improve your situation, but ultimately it is your situation and your choice if you would like to make any form of change, be it, to get more sleep or more structure to your day even. Everyone has their own needs. I do my best to meet those!


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